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City using Volkswagen state grant to purchase two electric buses

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — After receiving more than $818,000 from a state grant earlier this year, the city is working through final stages of purchasing two electric buses for Salisbury Transit.

City Manager Lane Bailey said the city received a Volkswagen Settlement Transit/Shuttle Bus Program grant from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality in February to replace two of Salisbury Transit’s older vehicles with two electric buses at no cost to the city. The grant covers the purchase of both buses and equipment to charge them.

Salisbury Transit operates three fixed routes along with Americans with Disabilities Act paratransit services in Salisbury, Spencer and East Spencer. The electric buses will perform the same function and operation as the Federal Transit Authority-funded buses being replaced.

The buses have not yet been purchased because the city is working with state officials on items such as bidding specifications. Additionally, Bailey said the city has been exploring options for batteries able to sustain a charge for a full route. He anticipates purchasing one bus with a charge duration of three to four hours and one with a charge duration of nine to 10 hours.

Though the battery is credited with being able to power a bus for up to 130 miles, Bailey said a battery pack seems to only be good for 100-110 miles. Across three routes Salisbury Transit operates, the total mileage is between 116 and 126 mile.

While the old buses could seat up to 30 passengers, the smaller electric buses can seat up to 14 passengers. The current 22-foot diesel ADA buses can also seat up to 14 passengers.

“We are grateful to the NCDEQ for recognizing our grant application requesting more fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly vehicles for our transit customers,” said Salisbury Transit Director Rodney Harrison. “This award will allow us to continue to serve our residents while reducing our carbon footprint, and improving efficiency for our current ridership. Slightly smaller buses also will improve safety when traveling in communities off the main thoroughfares.”

The grant is especially helpful because electric buses are far more expensive than the traditional diesel ones currently used. A 22-foot diesel bus is about $77,700, The comparable size electric bus is about $302,500.

Mayor Karen Alexander said in addition to the vehicle purchases funding includes camera systems, fare boxes, destination signs, bike racks and two-way radios. She also credited the grant with advancing the city’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint throughout all departments.

“It is our hope to use more alternative fuel vehicles in the future, and this will be a good first step for us,” Bailey said. “It will give us a chance to see how the electric buses operate and if they can meet our ridership needs.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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